Womble Bond Dickinson, the name of the combined firm, will have 1,000 lawyers across 24 offices in the United States and U.K, as well as a roughly $410 million in combined gross revenue. The new firm will service a client base that includes more than 250 publicly traded companies.
“I never would’ve envisioned this a year ago,” said Womble Carlyle chair and CEO Elizabeth “Betty” Temple, who in early 2016 took over as leader of the North Carolina-based Am Law 200 firm.
Temple, who will now serve as co-chair of Womble Bond Dickinson alongside Jonathan Blair, the Newcastle, England-based managing partner of Bond Dickinson, noted that the merger forged from a formal alliance established between both firms in mid-2016 will help the combined entity standout in an increasingly competitive market for high-end legal services.
“[This] really has re-positioned us in the marketplace, which has been exactly what we wanted,” Temple said. “It has put us in a whole different position with clients, with laterals and there’s just so much more opportunity now for talent in our firm.”
In any law firm merger, there are certain things that get left behind, such as a name on a shingle. One thing that Womble Bond will not have is Womble Carlyle’s official mascot, Winston the Bulldog, who has now been sent to the ash heap—or perhaps the kennel—of law firm marketing history.
“We are a new firm so we wanted a new brand,” said Temple, when asked what had become of Winston and the biography page he used to enjoy on Womble Carlyle’s website. “And while Winston will always have a special place in our hearts, he’s not going to be part of our new Womble Bond Dickinson external branding.”
Born out of a Womble Carlyle advertising campaign almost 22 years ago, Winston’s jowly and soulful stare has become synonymous with the 465-lawyer firm, which has its roots in Winston-Salem. But as Womble Carlyle morphs into a self-described “new breed of trans-Atlantic law firm,” Winston, named for the firm’s hometown, is taking his final bow and retiring from public life.
“He’s getting a little bit of a break, he’s a little bit in retirement, but still around,” said Temple, who noted that Winston will continue to appear stateside in some internal marketing materials. The outward-facing Winston, however, including an Instagram page that has been eradicated from the internet, is now gone.
According to his former profile on Womble Carlyle’s website, Winston evolved from an ad campaign launched by the firm in 1996. One ad featured a bulldog staring out at readers along with the tagline “Our Lawyers Mean Business.”
The English bulldog—a somewhat cruel irony for a pooch now made moot as a result of a merger with a British law firm—turned out to be so popular that Womble Carlyle decided to make Winston the centerpiece of its advertising efforts. Winston soon began adorning billboards, mouse pads, coffee mugs and other promotional materials distributed by the firm.
In 2007, when Womble Carlyle debuted its new “Innovator at Law” tagline, Winston was featured in four different animated videos that ran in the Atlanta and Washington, D.C., markets. One video depicted Winston attempting to walk across a tightrope, only to turn it into a zip line. The campaign was crafted by Burkey Belser and Diane Hartley, a pair of ad and design consultants credited with making Winston a law firm marketing success.
Over the next decade, Winston, who is about 145-years-old in dog years, has appeared with regularity on the Womble Carlyle’s website, marketing materials, internal and external communications and even in the firm’s holiday greeting videos.
Temple said that while many at Womble Carlyle still love Winston, the firm wanted to be sure that it was communicating exactly what it is now in Womble Bond, and as such has sought to focus on building out its new brand and identity as a mega-middle market firm.
And while all dogs go to heaven, Winston has not yet entered the afterlife of law firm marketing, as he will continue to have a home within the halls of Womble Bond’s U.S. offices, which include a new Boston base that opened in September.
“It’s sort of like he retired and still comes into the office, but only comes into the office here [in the United States],” joked Temple, likening Winston’s new role to a “senior partner” of sorts.